Saturday, October 2, 2010


Incommunicado. Dontcha just love that word, the way it rolls off your tongue? I had an opportunity to practice the art of being incommunicado just this week, and I have to say, it has it's advantages. It wasn't by choice, mind you, but before it was over with, I was fairly certain that it would do us all good to just "Un-Plug" ourselves every now and again.

My episode started with our land line going kinda wonky. It would only ring once, then would cut itself off before I could answer it. If I happened to be sitting right next to it, and grabbed it real fast, there was so much static on the line that it was difficult to carry on a conversation. Since most of the calls we get on that line are either telemarketers or politicians, I finally gave up trying to answer it. In fact, I found myself with a smug grin on my face, each time it rang right at dinner time, knowing who was likely to be calling. Then my cell phone went wonky too.

I left it on the charger all night, but it went dead before day's end. "Hmm, I guess the charger wasn't plugged in properly. Better try again." Next day it died midway through my first call. Uh oh. Looks like I need a new battery. Sooo, I called Dear John to ask where the nearest Cingular store was. "Cingular! Are you kidding me? You've had that phone for that long? Jeez Beck! Cingular doesn't even exist anymore. Forget it. I'll bring you one of my old ones this weekend." Well, crap. I really, really hate having to learn a new phone. This one is sure to have a million bells and whistles that I will never use, and, if you recall, John and I don't get along too well when he tries to teach me how to use one of his new gizmos. If I had my way, I'd have one of those phones pictured above. My parents had one of those, and it never broke. Ev-er! In fact, it would probably still be working to this very day, if someone hadn't hauled it off to the landfill. "Oh, and Beck?", he continued. "In the meantime, guess you'd better call Verizon and get them to come out and fix the land-line."

Easier said than done. After at least ten minutes of talking to a computer, which kept trying to convince me to perform a bunch of tests myself, possibly avoiding the need for a technician (Isn't that what we pay that extra maintenance fee for, each and every month?), I finally got hold of a human. Unfortunately, we could only speak in short bursts between periods of static. At last she agreed to send a technician, but she wanted me to give her a phone number where they could reach me. "Well, you can have this one, but if you recall, it doesn't work so hot." "Don't you have another one you can give me?" "Nope." "Then how are we supposed to get in touch with you?" Well, you could try fixing my dang phone!

P.S. Many thanks to for the image above.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Are you tired of reading about all the great restaurants in Austin, and not being able to afford any of them? Wouldn't it be awesome if a dozen or more of them decided to offer you a two week period where you could enjoy a three course meal at any or all of them, for a fraction of what it would normally cost? Well, they did! And you missed it! So solly.

But Lex and I didn't. Thanks to Austin Restaurant Week, we had a sumptuous lunch at The Roaring Fork in downtown Austin yesterday, where she dined on their fresh guacamole appetizer, an amazing BLT made with fried green tomato slices, and a piece of pee-can pie with vanilla bean ice cream. I had a spinach salad with mushrooms and fennel, trout with browned butter and almonds, and an exquisite creme brule. And it only cost us Fifteen. Dollars. Each! You can't beat that with a stick!

Don't worry though. Lucky for you, I'm pretty sure they do it each spring and fall, and for those of you who don't live in the area, I know several other large cities do it as well, just not all at the same time. Better keep checking those websites to see when the next one is, and be sure to put it on your calendar!

Thursday, September 30, 2010


Synchronicity has been tapping me on the shoulder once again, whispering "Pay attention!" into my ear. It all started when I got involved with The Bountiful Sprout, and they put me in charge of keeping track of all our vendors' and producers' permits and certifications - a real pain in the tuckus since every town/city/county has their own set of rules and regulations. One thing is universal though - if you want to start any kind of little food business, whether it be selling your yummy cakes or maybe your secret salsa recipe, you must prepare everything in a certified commercial kitchen. You can not operate from your home kitchen (unless, of course, you want to spend thousands upgrading it to commercial status, which would seriously eat into any profits you hoped to make, would it not?). That is why, whenever we come across someone who is trying to operate from their home, we try to hook them up with another vendor who already has a kitchen, and might be willing to rent them some space. Our community center has one I think, but I've heard they charge out the wazoo.

Back in February, when I attended the Story Circle Network conference, I spent some time chatting with a lovely woman (and gifted writer) named Susan Tweit, who lives in Salado, Colorado. She and her husband have reclaimed an old industrial property in the heart of town, and she was telling me about the wonderful, year-round farmers' market that is an easy walk just down the block from her. Wouldn't that be nice? She really grabbed my attention when she mentioned the new couple in town who were transforming a building next to the market into a cafe and commercial kitchen, with spaces available for rent to any of the farmers and producers who wish to sell these "value-added" products. Brilliant! If only we had something like that around here.

Then, last week in Houston, I came across a newspaper article about young Lucrece Borrego, a former investment banker in NYC who, when she saw the coming credit crash, decided to ditch that career and indulge her passion for food instead. After moving to Houston, she too stumbled across an article, about a rent-a-kitchen for budding chefs in Austin, called The Kitchen Space. How did I not know about this? Borrego knew a good thing when she saw it, so set about to launch a similar business there in Houston, which is called Kitchen Incubator. According to Borrego, there are lots of people out there right now who have been laid off, and are looking for something like this - a way to start their businesses without the financial responsibility of having their own commercial kitchen. Judging from the recent TV special I watched, about the mushrooming food trailer business in various spots around the country, including Austin, I'd say she's right on the money. When asked what led them to opening a trailer eatery, most of those they interviewed said "Well, I got laid off, and I couldn't afford to open a restaurant..." So, kudos to you Ms. Borrego. Just goes to show -- you can take the girl out of investment banking, but you can't take the instinct for business out of the girl!

P.S. Many thanks to for the above image.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Get a load of the giant reptile that slithered into the Cantina Garden recently. I almost wet my pants one Saturday, last time John was here, when I happened to glance out the dining porch window and caught sight of this! As it turns out, he and my new scarecrow droid make a pretty good guard team. Haven't seen any new hoof-prints in the garden since they arrived. Of course, the fact that I yanked out all my summer stuff right around that same time, and the fall stuff isn't up yet, could have some bearing on that as well. Anyhoo, I guess I'll let him stick around for a while - long as he doesn't invite any of his buds to join him!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Halleluja! At least two of my vintage outfits have been rescued from oblivion. Unfortunately, my precious daughter can be quite stubborn when she sets her mind to it, and refused to even try on the red sequined job from the 80's. She doesn't do shoulder pads and jagged hems. I thought it was pretty hot at the time, but in retrospect... well, perhaps it would be best if we could just sweep most of the 80's under a rug somewhere, non?

Monday, September 27, 2010


I am so happy to finally have a garden with room for an American Beautyberry. What a great shrub - can take sun or shade (though it likes filtered sunlight best), gets these uber showy purple berries in late summer that last into winter if the birds don't get them, and is pretty much carefree. My only regret is that the berries tend to drop off if you cut the branches, so it's not great for bringing indoors. Mine was only planted in spring, so it's still a baby, but they can get to be 4-8 ft. tall, with a spread of 5-8 ft.

Another favorite plant is pictured there next to it, with the very showy variegated

foliage. That's my old pal Magilla Perilla. She looks a lot like some of the giant-leaved coleuses (colei?), but unlike them, she never goes to seed or gets all tall and lanky. She just gets fuller and more lush as the season progresses. In fact, the mother plant that I planted in spring has grown so well that I've trimmed her back several times this summer. Last time, just for the heck of it, I took some of the tip cuttings and just stuck them in the ground wherever I had an empty space, and that is what you are seeing in the photo. Again, pretty much care free, other than a couple of trims. Only regret here is that it's an annual, which means it will croak come winter. Still, five are six dollars per year for a huge, lush plant with perpetual color and all the babies I want from it, is not a bad deal!


Oh my, my! Fall is definitely in the air this morning. I slept with the windows open last night, and it was so chilly when I woke up, about 54 F. I think, I actually had the urge to burrow under the covers (you northerners better stop that snickering right now!). It's certainly a far cry from the kicking-off-the-sheets weather of the last few months. Makes me want to get in the kitchen and bake something with cinnamon or nutmeg in it, which reminds me, I roasted my first ever butternut squash last week! I just sliced it in half and scraped out the seeds and strings - just like cleaning a pumpkin, though much easier. Smelled kinda like it too. With a pat of butter in each cavity, and a sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg at the end, it was pretty tasty (despite the rather disconcerting shape).

I'm also getting the urge to throw open my closet and start yanking out anything that smacks of summer, but I'm going to do my best to resist that one. Years and years of experience tell me it could easily be back up in the 90's in the blink of an eye.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Here is a small sampling of the stuff I must bring home with me each time I go to Houston. Each visit I try to tackle a new area, and this time it was my closet. Two years ago I cleared out everything I actually wear and brought it here, and got rid of most everything I knew I'd never use again. Notice I said most everything.

What was left? The toughies. The things that are gonna hurt like hell (if not me, then someone else), but which would take up way more space than I have to spare in this little house. There's the matching felt circle skirts I made for Lexie's 50's-themed

10th birthday party; an early 80's black strapless, full-skirted, Laura Ashley cocktail dress and matching petticoat that I wore B.K. (before kids), and looked oh so fine in, if I do say so myself; a red sequined cocktail dress from the late 80's (complete with jagged hem and huge shoulder pads) that John surprised me with on my birthday; a native Sumatran costume that we bought for Lex just before we left Indonesia, complete with jewels and accessories; her American Girl Doll and all its clothes, furniture and accessories, including those precious little goblets with cherries on them; Austin's Brio train and Marbleworks sets; a batik wrap-around skirt and haltar top set from our mid-70's stay in Indonesia, as newlyweds; the files from my stint as a garden designer, and all the tools of the trade, including a big drawing table; and last but not least, buried at the bottom of the pile, a lovely ecru colored, empire style wedding dress, with pale pink organza sash, flounce, and tiny buttons on the leg-o-mutton sleeves - which I already know my daughter does not wish to wear, for it is the antithesis of the sleek, white, strapless styles that are popular today.

So, there you have it - the summary of my married life, in a pile on our bed. How do you deal with the undealable? I've got four days to figure it out, else John will have no place to sleep next weekend.